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Posts tagged ‘Lead and follow’

Strong Relationships

Leadership is about relationships! I suppose if you frequent this blog you could begin to get tired of seeing me type that phrase, but that phrase is the key to any Leader’s sustained career! Nothing can overcome the most difficult of situations in a workplace environment like a strong relationship based Team. Everyone in the office can still be uniques, have differences and even a few simple confrontations, but it will be the strong relationship that will help everyone understand each other better and will aid in a much quicker resolution to any and all problems in the office!

So, I guess you might be wondering what makes up the foundation of a good relationship in the workplace. There are several characteristics that make up healthy working relationships:

  • Trust – This is the foundation of every good relationship. When you trust your team and colleagues, you form a powerful bond that helps you work and communicate more effectively. If you trust the people you work with, you can be open and honest in your thoughts and actions, and you don’t have to waste time and energy “watching your back.” Trust is something that often is the hardest part of a relationship. Realize that to trust, one has to allow themselves to be vulnerable and that is a risky move. However, if you do not extend that trust, that open door to your emotions and feelings, you will never have any synergy, cohesiveness or support in your workplace. Yes, you might get hurt a time or two, but pain is a part of  learning, learning is a part of growing and growing is a part of success. If you want to be a success as a Leader, you will have to endure a bit of pain along the way. Take heart though, if you allow it to, it can make you a much stronger and better person because of the journey you will take with it!
  • Mutual Respect – When you respect the people whom you work with, you value their input and ideas, and they value yours. Working together, you can develop solutions based on your collective insight, wisdom and creativity. Mutual Respect is a huge part of Synergy, (the process of two or more minds coming together to create a solution that is greater than any one person could come up with on their own), which every working environment needs to have. Without respect or synergy in the workplace, you and your Team are going nowhere fast!
  • Diversity – People with good relationships not only accept diverse people and opinions, but they welcome them. Any workplace that respects, invites and encourages diversity will be the a workplace that experiences frequent success and will be a pool of idea generation! It is paramount for the Leader to instill in all Team Members that each and every one of us were created with a unique skill set and valuable insight. As everyone seeks to include all thought processes and viewpoints, collaboration and projects soar to new heights!
  • Open Communication – Whether we’re sending emails, text and IM’s, or meeting face-to-face it is crucial that we stay positive, constructive, open and honest The better and more effectively you communicate with those around you, the richer your relationships will be. All good relationships depend on open, honest communication. As a Leader you should only want the very best for your Team Members and often that will involve some very frank conversations. Even thought it is tempting to avoid the hard talks, it is detrimental to the Team as a whole. Just as in a personal friendship, if you are a true friend you will be honest, even with the hard stuff. The same holds true for your work relationships. If you have established the trust and respect with those around you, it opens the door for honest, open communication. However, if you have not established trust and respect, you in no way can have open communication. It is the trust and respect that will help you approach the other person with the hard subjects in a way that they know you are only trying to help them. It is also the key elements that will allow them to receive it in the manner you truly intend it to be.

If a Leader will utilize this recipe above, model it and instill it in his/her people, they can revolutionize the workplace environment. Until next time, keep building strong relationships!!


Questions, Questions and more Questions

Leadership naturally requires you to be a curious individual and the more curious you are, the more successful you and your Team will be!! During Coaching interactions with your Team, ask many questions to help your Team Member arrive at the root issues of performance and production limitations. Too often as a Leader we are tempted to talk more than listen when dealing with Team Members. Time is too valuable to expend by droning on with your own assumptions and theories about possible issues and problems the Team Member might be facing or having.

Listed below are questions that any Leader can use to dig deeper into the  success well during any Coaching interaction:

* “What one thing could I do to make you more effective in your role?”

* What roadblocks are holding you back? (or preventing your projects from moving ahead?)

* What’s the most important issue you are dealing with in your life right now?

* What does the competition do better than us?

* What do we do better than our competition?

* If you were the President of this Company, what’s the first thing you would change and why?

* What do we/you do better than anyone else?

* Looking at your personal productivity, what two things do we need to work on to improve your productivity?

* What are the two key behaviors you need to keep doing to remain successful?

* What one thing can we do to make our weekly meeting more effective?

* What are your top three goals for this/next month?

* What one thing can you do today that will have the greatest impact on you reaching your goals?

* If I could do just one thing for you as a result of this discussion, what would it be?


If you incorporate a few of these questions into your coaching interactions and then follow the path they lead you on, you will be well on your way to moving your Team and yourself to victory!!

Until next time, keep asking questions!



Work Culture

Culture is around you at work all of the time. Culture shapes your work enjoyment, your work relationships, your work processes and your overall satisfaction with your job. Culture is something that you as a Leader must be constantly aware of, and improving upon. Culture begins with you!

In many ways, culture is like personality. In a person, the personality is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, interests, experiences, upbringing, and habits that create a person’s behavior. Culture is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a group of people while being stirred and mixed daily by the tone set by the Leader.

Professors Ken Thompson (DePaul University) and Fred Luthans (University of Nebraska) highlight the following seven characteristics of culture.

  • Culture = Behavior. Culture is a word used to describe the behaviors that represent the general operating norms in your environment. Culture is not usually defined as good or bad, although aspects of your culture likely support your progress and success and other aspects impede your progress.A norm of accountability will help make your organization successful. A norm of spectacular customer service will sell your products and engage your employees. Tolerating poor performance or exhibiting a lack of discipline to maintain established processes and systems will impede your success.
  • Culture is Learned. People learn to perform certain behaviors through either the rewards or negative consequences that follow their behavior. When a behavior is rewarded, it is repeated and the association eventually becomes part of the culture. A simple thank you from an executive for work performed in a particular manner, molds the culture.
  • Culture is Learned Through Interaction. Employees learn culture by interacting with other employees. Most behaviors and rewards in organizations involve other employees. An applicant experiences a sense of your culture, and his or her fit within your culture, during the interview process. An initial opinion of your culture can be formed as early as the time the applicant inquires about employment.
  • Sub-cultures Form Through Rewards.. Employees have many different wants and needs. Sometimes employees value rewards that are not associated with the behaviors desired by managers for the overall company. This is often how subcultures are formed, as people get social rewards from coworkers or have their most important needs met in their departments or project teams.
  • People Shape the Culture. Personalities and experiences of employees create the culture of an organization. For example, if most of the people in an organization are very outgoing, the culture is likely to be open and sociable. If many artifacts depicting the company’s history and values are in evidence throughout the company, people value their history and culture. If doors are open, and few closed door meetings are held, the culture is unguarded. If negativity about supervision and the company is widespread and complained about by employees, a culture of negativity, that is difficult to overcome, will take hold.
  • Culture is Negotiated. One person cannot create a culture alone. Employees must try to change the direction, the work environment, the way work is performed, or the manner in which decisions are made within the general norms of the workplace. Culture change is a process of give and take by all members of an organization. Formalizing strategic direction, systems development, and establishing measurements must be owned by the group responsible for them. Otherwise, employees will not own them.
  • Culture is Difficult to Change. Culture change requires people to change their behaviors. It is often difficult for people to unlearn their old way of doing things, and to start performing the new behaviors consistently. Persistence, discipline, employee involvement, kindness and understanding, organization development work, and training can assist you to change a culture.
It is highly important for the Leader to be aware of the above contributing factors in Culture development. A Leader, through just a few encouraging acts or words can move a Culture quickly in a positive, uplifting direction. Conversely, a few unkind, destructive words can crash a Culture just as fast if not faster than the uplift from the encouraging Leader. Be cautious of the Culture you emit from your Leadership style. Remember, Leadership is about relationships and relationships build Culture!
Until next time, build an awesome Culture where you are!!

The Value of Others

Not long ago I was teaching a Leadership class and had touched on the fact that we need to care about the lives of those whom we lead. I wasn’t referring to becoming the employees Therapist or even their best friend, just caring about what made them tick and trying to find out a little about the issues that might stand in the way of top performance on the job. It seemed the group bought into this idea pretty well other than a couple of individuals that made the joking comment, “I don’t care what their problems are. Get to work and do your job!” We can all laugh at this and it can be a good bit of levity in a meeting setting. However, it is a motivation, profit and culture killer in the workplace!

I have worked in organizations that had that same attitude and I would like to share with you today what it feels like to be on the other side of that comment. Many of you will identify with me during the course of this blog and I would invite your comments on how you felt in a similar situation. Some, however, will be reading this and have made the comment listed above either in their mind or, (heaven forbid!) verbally. Please pledge today to never feel that way or make the comment ever again. In case you are new to this blog, my mantra is: Leadership is About Relationships! You can’t succeed without others!

When employed are XYZ Company I was young and had many things going on in my life. Often I would have issues that would distract from my production capability a little, to a lot! I knew what was going on in my head and was truly trying to not let it affect my performance but sometimes it seemed an uphill battle with no end in sight. This is a tale of two Supervisors, one we will call Tom and the other Bart.

Tom was a good man who cared about his employees and took a genuine interest in them as people, not just workers. Tom hired me and nurtured my strengths. Whenever I would have a bad day he would call me into his office or catch me out on the floor and pull me aside. He would ask me how my day was going and if anything new was happening in my life. If I did not offer anything of value up, he would tell me he noticed I was a bit different today and ask me if I thought I was acting any different. If I still didn’t give up anything he would ask me why I thought he was noticing a difference in me that day. Before long if I had not revealed what was going on in my life he would simply say, “Rod, you are not your usual self today and your production is off. I want you to remember whenever you come in our front doors to work that if you have anything you need to talk about, I’m here for your. I am not your Doctor, Lawyer or Therapist, but if you need an ear I will listen. You need and I need you to be at your best when you are on your job, so go back out there and do what Rod does best! Remember though, if you need to talk I am here. I want you to be successful and today you are not fully on that path.”

It never failed that eventually Tom and I talked. He never really gave me advise per se, but he listened and it made me feel better. He always helped me put my work/life balance in perspective and, because he cared about me, I grew in that company very quickly. Not only did I grow, but he rapidly became the Regional Manager over many locations and did very well for himself.

Let’s look now at Tom’s replacement Bart. Bart came into the picture after Tom moved up to a District Manager position. One day always sticks out to me as the defining description of Bart. As a matter of fact, to this very day, some 20 years later, every time I think of this man, I think of this one day. I had been promoted to the head of my department and it had become one of the top departments company wide through our teamwork under Tom. On this fateful day I was doing my job but for personal reasons was not on my game. Bart passed by the area I was working in and never said a thing. Which was not unusual, he never said, “Good Morning”, “Hello”, or anything of the sort when he arrived at work. Once he went by, he circled back and saw me standing and thinking. He approached and here was the entire conversation, “Long, you are a disgrace to this company! Seeing you stand there when you should be working makes me wonder why you were ever promoted in the first place! Tom isn’t here any longer to hold your hand so you better wise up or you are out of here! Now get to work and stop standing there like a tree!” Oh, I went to work alright! I soon went to work for another company!

Bart was fired after a year on his job when profits were down, sales plummeted, employee turnover was the norm and customer satisfaction was at an all-time low. Tom on the other hand, continued to rise and everything he touched turned to gold.

The simple truth for Leaders is: Leadership is About Relationships!!

Until next time, keep working on your relationships!



People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger Than Themselves– People don’t follow others by accident. It is a given that due to chain of command in work settings that people OUTWARDLY follow whom that are told to. However, INWARDLY they may be totally in opposition to the assigned Leader. It is this inward following that determines the productivity and profitability of your organization.


The Process of Gaining Respect-

  • Natural Leadership Ability– This is not a common trait, but if you possess it, people will follow you. If you do not possess it, you simply have to be more purposeful is your Leadership skills and your work relationships with your Team.
  • Respect for Others– As Leaders show respect for others- especially for people who have less power or at a lower position than theirs- they gain respect from those they lead.
  • Courage– Legacy Leaders do what is right, even at the risk of failure, in the face of danger and criticism. A Leader’s courage gives his Team hope.
  • Success– A Leader’s success does not always translate to a happy Team. Keep in mind that the truest measure of a Leader’s success is the victories experienced by his/her Team.
  • Loyalty– When Leaders live under the mantra that they will not ask others to do anything they themselves wouldn’t do, their respect level grows. It is when a Leader lives under the mantra of do as I say, not as I do, that their respect level quickly diminishes.
  • Value Added to Others– Team Members value Leaders who value them. As the Leader intentionally builds up the Team from the inside out, the Team becomes stronger and the respect earned will create a Legacy for that Leader.

Always remember, effective, long-lasting respect has to be earned. Respect by title is no longer an option in the work place we exist in today. The Legacy Leader realizes that respect is more about WHO you are than WHAT role you are in!